Joe McKnight: The neo-colonial overtones of the Heritage Foundation’s report, “Saving Somalia: The Next Steps for the Obama Administration,” are influencing U.S. foreign policy–or perhaps more likely, the report is an affirmation of existing policies in the Horn of Africa. Though the report repeatedly calls for the “encouragement of good governance” and transferring “central authority from the TFG (Transnational Federal Government) to a more representative system of governance,” five of the twelve proposed recommendations deal with intelligence, military, and terrorism concerns.
Their suggestions are specific: increase military funding to AFRICOM countries, continued use of drone strikes to “complement sound policy,” increase international policing coordination in pirated areas in the Gulf of Aden, and list Eritrea as a state sponsor of terror, among others. Another two suggestions are for greater “accountability in aid distribution” and the African Union’s increased role in humanitarian relief. The recommendations regarding “good governance” are vague–with the exception of the stated goal to “recognize Somaliland’s provisional independence”–and lack the kind of details one would expect to be associated with the reestablishment of the political process. In effect, the report is a justification (and blueprint) for increased military presence in the Horn of Africa while a loud but unclear call for democratic governance. Sound familiar?
Last week, the Washington Post reported on “expanded intelligence operations” not only in the Horn, but also in West Africa, Central Africa and sub-Saharan East Africa. This graphic highlights many of the bases throughout the region, with the key base for Somalia being Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. As the Post noted, the primary objective of many of these outposts is maintenance of the drones and surveillance planes the Heritage Foundation recommends. From Djibouti, the U.S will be able to keep a watchful eye on the presence of Al-Shabaab in Somalia and, not surprisingly, Al-Qaeda in nearby Yemen.
The Heritage Foundation’s report, then, is like good cover, a justification of what the U.S. military is already doing: increasing military infrastructure throughout Africa. Whether the justification for the militarization of Africa is solely related to Islamic terrorism and not also massive land grabs and development in Africa by the Chinese and other South Asian countries, remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the U.S. wants to be in a position to carry out the kind of proxy, drone-driven “security” in Somalia and the rest of Africa that we’ve seen throughout the Middle East for the last decade. Talk of “encouraging good governance” is a kind of neo-colonial veneer Africa is already very familiar with.